The July 5th New Yorker ran an article on Steve Carell (who went to college at Denison University in Granville, OH, by the way). He is known as a notoriously nice guy and a rare team-player in Hollywood. The article praises his ability to improv, an art he honed at Second City in Chicago. You can read the article here.
The last half of the article is what fascinated me, though. The writer describes how Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, and Vince Vaughn actually help each other write their movie scripts. Even if they are not in the movie, each one is available to read over the script, suggest alternate takes, additions/subtractions, etc. Then, the rest of the guys take notes. Will Ferrell is quoted as saying that this collaborative process makes the movies so much better, he’s surprised that every writer in Hollywood doesn’t write movies this way.
All of these guys improv well, and Jud Apatow can shoot a million feet of film for one movie, which is, I guess, much longer than usual because of the of the alternate takes. At the same time, it was strangely comforting to me that these guys work so hard and actually have a system in place to write comedy. They’re serious about being funny.
I’ve been a Will Ferrell fan ever since his first SNL skit (“Get off the shed!”). The Office is my favorite show largely because of Steve Carell’s genius. They make it look easy, but I admire them so much more knowing that they sit around a table or email scripts to each other, make notes, and meticulously sculpt a screenplay until it’s as funny as they can possibly make it. Jud Apatow says their goal is one hard laugh every minute. I’m motivated by artists who work so hard that it appears that it all just came naturally to them. I’ve read the same thing about the songwriting partnership between John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
As a pastor, I have to ask what this kind of collaboration and hard work looks like in a church. So much of what I see in churches- sermons, ministries, special events, communication pieces, worship music- looks so thrown together and half-hearted that it’s obvious that no substantial time and thought was put into it.
If the best comedians in the world have put a system in place that helps them write funny movies, how much more should church leaders collaborate to create systems that make us more effective? Some churches do this well. Most do not. Here are some starter ideas…
- A team that critiques and improves sermons before they’re preached
- A team that has permission to say “no” to the senior pastor (rubber stamp committees are a waste of time and resources)
- A team that designs every detail of the worship service
- A team that makes sure that all communication is unified
- A team that makes sure bad or incomplete ideas get questioned before they’re inflicted onto the congregation
- A team that makes sure the church stays relevant to the community
- Your ideas?